Wednesday, 2002 February 27, 09:50 — constitution, history

there’s always been a lottery

Office lottery in ancient Athens.

In short, the lottery – and the great Iron Age pachinko machine that was its finest expression and most powerful tool – made the first democracy what it was. Together, the system and its technology enabled Athenians not just to recognize but to live what Aristotle, in his Politics, considered one of democracy’s defining principles: “ruling and being ruled in turn.”

Amendment XVII to the U.S.Constitution removed a bit of diversity – and thus a layer of sanity-checking – from the Federal legislature, by making both houses elected in the same way. If indirect election had to be replaced, better to replace it with something else entirely; lottery is the obvious choice.

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